Three Types of Occupational Fraud to Know and Understand

Smart Business

According to research from The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), it’s estimated that global businesses and organizations lose approximately 5% of their total annual revenue to occupational fraud (i.e., fraud committed against an organization by its own officers, directors, or employees.) 

The hefty price tag of occupational fraud, also known as workplace fraud, translates to roughly $7B in losses each year to businesses and organizations. This staggering cost is made even more remarkable by the fact that a significant number of organizations simply overlook the most effective anti-fraud measures. 

Understanding the various types of fraud that take place within organizations, and educating leaders about them can help businesses be proactive in protecting themselves.

There are three major categories of organizational fraud, each of which can devastate a business financially and reputationally: asset misappropriation, corruption, and financial statement fraud.


ACFE’s research shows that the most common type of occupational fraud is the misappropriation of company assets. This variety of fraud includes both the theft of company assets, such as cash or inventory and the misuse of company resources, such as taking the corporate jet for a personal trip. 

While asset misappropriation is the most common form of workplace fraud, it is also the least costly to organizations with a median loss of $114,000 per incident. The schemes generally start small and get larger as perpetrators gain confidence in their ability to get away with their dishonesty.

Asset Misappropriation Schemes Include:

  • stealing cash, services, inventory, time or intellectual property
  • inflating expense reports, timesheets, and sales reports for commission payments
  • falsifying purchase orders for payments made to bogus vendors
  • abusing a company credit card for personal expenses
  • tampering with checks or check forgery 
  • personal use of company vehicles, property or equipment
  • register disbursement schemes
  • billing schemes such as inflating invoices
  • falsifies payroll records, timekeeping records, or some other document concerned with the payroll function


Corruption occurs when an owner, executive, or employee deliberately abuses an organization’s resources or assets for personal gain. Forty percent of the cases reported in ACFE’s study involve some type of corrupt activity resulting in a median loss of  $250,000 to victim organizations.

Corruption occurs in many forms with the recipients of these schemes ranging from low-level clerks to CEOs and public officials. This form of fraud can result in massive damages to an organization, particularly smaller businesses. Beyond destroying a company’s finances, corruption often ruins a company’s reputation and devalues their brand equity. 

The associated activities of corruption often occur in tandem with misappropriation or financial statement fraud rather than as individual schemes.

Corruption Schemes Include: 

  • bribery, kickbacks, illegal gratuities, economic extortion
  • conflicts of interest, bid-rigging
  • money laundering and bid-rigging
  • colluding with others to make or receive false payments for services or goods never delivered
  • colluding with an insurance provider to falsify insurance claims
  • replacing purchased goods with lower quality or counterfeit goods


The least prevalent, but most costly form of occupational fraud is financial statement fraud. It occurs in ten percent of ACFE’s case studies with a median loss of $800,000.

Financial statement fraud occurs when a balance sheet, income statement, or cash flow statement is intentionally altered by an employee or owner to deceive an auditor the organization’s financials. The motive of the employee may be private gain, obtaining credit for the company, or keeping the company afloat.

Some cases of financial statement fraud can also be classified as misappropriation of assets or corruption.  

Financial Statement Schemes Include:

  • understating or overstating income, assets, liabilities or expenses
  • postponing reporting income or expenses to a later period so that current earnings look higher or lower
  • improper asset or inventory valuation
  • improperly concealing financial disclosures


Educating yourself and your staff about the different forms of organizational fraud is an essential first step to fraud prevention. Next month we will discuss fraud protection and the proactive steps every organization can take to reduce the risk of becoming the next victim of organizational fraud.


If you have questions or want to learn more, contact us here. We would love to help make sure you are both educated and comfortable with a professional who knows how to handle these situations.

Referenced Report:  2018 Report to the Nations. Copyright 2018 by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, Inc.


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